This wasn’t supposed to happen, I thought. No, not at all…
I’d been suffering from inexplicable pain for many years. Pain so severe that at times, when I tried to walk, it felt as if my feet were being stabbed by glass pieces that had been smashed and scattered across the floor. My body was constantly exhausted, my arms and legs crippled with pain.
At its worst it left me bedbound for weeks, sapping all my strength and energy.
Yet, despite all this, I was still young, with plans and goals. I was determined that this wasn't going to stop me. Somehow, I managed to graduate from university and although I faced many challenges, my overall feeling was one of hope and excitement at the years that lay ahead.
My first job was for a development charity, a long journey which meant I had to travel across London, three days a week. My dear and wise mother suggested caution, saying it would be better to find a job with a little less travelling - but I persisted.
One morning, I woke up with a severity of pain unlike anything I'd ever experienced. After a while it subsided, so I struggled into work, but ended up collapsing to the floor. I was so used to being in pain by that point that I didn't even consider going to hospital - instead I was taken to rest in the managing director's office and spent the afternoon laying on his couch. Thankfully, he wasn't in the office at the time!
Oh, the embarrassment!
the perfect job
Then a miracle occurred.
I was offered a job, just a few hours a week, lecturing at an adult education centre - not far from where I lived. I jumped at the chance.
This job was perfect. I loved it.
Most of the adults were far older than me and had seen much of life. As I watched my students blossom and grow, I saw the transformational effect that education in a positive and loving environment could have on people.
Former students would return to tell me of their successes and thank me for my support.
Although they were the ones thanking me, my students didn’t realise how much help they were, and the immense satisfaction they gave me in return.
I was a perfectionist - especially if I felt passionately about something, and this class was no exception. No matter how much my body protested, I pushed myself to prepare the classes, and pushed myself a little more to get there and deliver the lessons.
I’d return home, in a shattered heap, needing help from my mother to complete even the smallest task.
Yet teaching that class was vital for me.
It may have worn my energy for the week, but it gave me happiness and, importantly, it gave me hope.
Finally, it proved too much.
I realised I had to change things and focus on my health. Reluctantly, I gave up the class.
By this point I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and endometriosis. Apparently the pain from the fibro affected my cycle and made the endometriosis pain so severe there were times even strong opiates could not control it.
I became shackled in a life of constraint and isolation.
on asking god why?
I had been brought up in a Christian home, and had been taught that suffering could be used as a tool for spiritual growth. Unfortunately I wasn’t one of those people who smiled in the face of adversity - seeing it as part of God’s unknown plan.
Instead I had the recurrent thought - why did my constant pleas to God go unheard and unanswered?
I devoured every book I could find in an effort to find answers. Christian books, self-help books, biographies of those who had overcome adversity, business books by self-made men (and women). Anything and everything to try and find a reason for the torment I was going through an a way to overcome it.
finding a new interest
I realised I needed something positive to focus on so I set myself the challenge of teaching myself how to draw.
I wasn't able to attend classes, and there were many, many days when I couldn't even hold a pencil, but on the odd day when I'd been able to create something, the sense of achievement was huge.
Art became my escape in those difficult years.
Oh, the joy!
Have you found something that does the same for you?
My life settled into a predictable pattern. I'd have a few days where I felt better, inevitably I'd have a rush of excitement and overdo things, then my body would crash leaving me worse than before.
a princess in the tower
My parents were amazing. My mother, especially, provided the bedrock of my emotional and physical support. There were many days when I had to descend the stairs on my behind, my legs being too weak and wobbly to support me. There were far more days when I couldn't get down the stairs at all, and spent far too much time in the bedroom I'd had since childhood.
After a couple of years, I decided to try my hand at living alone. That was the toughest challenge of my life. Not having the support I needed was a huge physical challenge, but beyond that, I'd never known isolation like it. There were twelve steps to the front door of the flat I lived in. Twelve steps that separated me from the outside world. But there may as well have been a thousand.
I felt trapped, like the proverbial princess in the tower.
rediscovering a sense of purpose
Yet, ultimately, the truth was my life lacked purpose.
My illustrations could take me so far, but they didn’t completely satisfy the need I had to learn and share what I learned with other people.
It was like eating a delicious meal yet feeling inexplicably hungry at the end.
Have you ever had that feeling?
Then - one day, I came across an online course in Positive Psychology run by Dr Chris Johnstone and Miriam Akhtar.
I’d studied social psychology as part of my degree, but this was a new area to me. I was on a tight budget, but the deadline was closing in 24 hours - and the course wouldn’t run again for another year... What should I do?
I decided to risk it…
I was immediately hooked. The tutors created an environment that was encouraging and supportive, yet stretched us just enough so that we could see weekly growth.
I learned about gratitude, savouring, watermap technique and... And that was all in the first session (smile!).
I joined the class feeling my life was rudderless, but by the second lesson I knew that somehow I had to get back to teaching again. And somehow, I had to share the skills I was learning with other women facing a similar situation.
Yes - over the years, I'd been encouraged to teach, but I simply couldn't see a way forward.
But this class made me realise – yes, I can do something! I'd have to work it to my circumstances - but yes I could!
- So if you’re reading this and you're thinking that life hasn’t gone quite the way you’ve planned then, my friend, I want you to know that I’ve been there and I understand.
- If it feels as if you've been rooted to the spot while your dreams drift on by, I understand that too.
- But I also know that you are still blessed with unique talents, and wonderful abilities that can be shared and used.
So that's why I am developing an e-class, and it's totally free!
My hope is it’ll remind you of the amazing person you are. That it will get you started on developing your own personal toolkit of strategies and skills – and ultimately it will lead to a happier, more resilient and radiant you.
Care to join me?
I'd so love it if you did! You can click the button below to sign up. And just as soon as it's ready, you'll be the first to know.
Meanwhile, I have alot of other free goodies for you in my resource library!
PS. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this. It really means so much.